With our size family, we often have to deal with issues of self esteem. There are 3 gingerlings, some bean poles, some belly woes, a few geeklings and a couple of nerds, a bookworm and a sports enthusiast. We have been exceptionally lucky because none of these things have led to any sustained bullying or upset. The issues we have had is because of the sense of justice, the choice to follow the rules, the lack of “tell-tale” mentality at home which allows for a greater sense of needing others to do their best and the reporting of poor behaviour or rule breaking.
My children get pulled apart for doing the right thing. It is absolutely frustrating that they have to deal with back handed name calling, pinching, pushing, isolation tactics etc. and when I try to discuss the issue at school, it is *my* child who is told to ignore poor behaviour in others, to walk away from troublesome 10 year olds, to find a new place to play, to stop taking things so personally.
This doesn’t wash with us nor does it mean that the school get to deny they have a problem with bullying. As a parent, it is my job to protect my children, to encourage a positive attitude and install a compass to help steer them clear from trouble. When I drop them off at the class door I expect the staff to put the same effort in and 10 years ago, mostly, they did. As I now approach our youngest two entering the system I can see definite flaws in how things are being handled and the way the schools mark down incidents.
At a recent meeting with one of the Heads, it was mentioned that the mother of the boy who *slapped my child around the face* was not keen on the school’s behaviour policy so although it would have been mentioned the school had not given the child any sanctions beyond asking him to say sorry. So, as an adult, I can go into the playground and smack a member of staff and all I’ll have to do is say sorry….. No. I can’t see that assault being let go quite so easily and this is what children face everyday at school.
There’s one of those urban legends about a young lad who twangs a girl’s bra strap multiple times and when he doesn’t back off the female turns around and punches him in the face. Parents are called to the school and the girl looks to be excluded for a day or three for violence when the mother, quite rightly, steps in and explains that if the young adult isn’t punished she will be forced to press charges for sexual assault. It is almost certainly a lesson based on some truth but also one that doesn’t seem to be being heard by those in a position of power and responsibility.
My beautiful niece, only 12 years old, was having trouble with the snidey kids at her secondary school. It started with giggling as she passed, whispers in the class line, notes being passed around reminding others that she wasn’t to be talked to. Her mum tried to do right by our little Smiler, explained to not let these kids get the better of her, remind her that she isn’t any of those things being talked about, to be “the better person” and walk away. That worked for a short while but when these bullies saw it wasn’t working they stepped it up a notch and eventually became physical. One day she finally had enough. Smiler had done everything she was supposed to; walk away, tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell head of year. Now she had nowhere else to go and felt that she wasn’t worth as much as these other delightful tweenagers because no one had her back at school, a place where she spends the majority of her time, where she is supposed to be as safe as, or better safer than, home. She stood up for herself and when the leader tried to trip her up, again, she told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to pack it in right now. The other girl laughed before grabbing a handful of Smiler’s hair. She defended herself brilliantly and matched her enemy pull for pull, scratch for scratch. She was put in isolation for the rest of the week and made to apologise to the other girl.
What does that teach the next generation? Do the right thing but you might get hurt in the process but stand up for yourself and you will be punished and probably more harshly than your bully..? Why are we allowing the bullys and their bullying parents to dictate how we handle these situations? Why should our children be putting up with hurtful behaviour, attitudes, and violence, the consequences of which stay with a person for a lifetime? Accidental headlocks, recommending the wearing of shorts under skirts to prevent bullies from showing your knickers to the rest of the school, ignoring others blatently breaking school rules, holding back the tears for fear you give the bully more ammunition. Our children shouldn’t have to feel scared at school, they shouldn’t have nightmares or breakdowns as you insist that they attend classes.
I urge all parents to stand up to bullies. Speak to the teacher, the Head, explain that you will not stand by and allow your child to be subjected to poor behaviour because the school fail to see it, or worse, see it and do not appropriately handle the situation. Our children have the right to an education free from harm and harrassment, lessons that don’t involve being kicked under the table, lunchtimes free from people ruining food, and also to walk home without a group of kids following or crowding around them.
School isn’t always fun, we all know how far the government have gone to make tests the most important part of the learning process, but as adults, we have the capability and responsibility to keep our children free from physical AND mental harm.